October, 2013

Our work

Our work
You might be surprised to read that our work is far broader than nature reserves and Big Garden Birdwatch. Read more about what else we do.

Saving Species

The need for species conservation has never been greater. Despite notable successes in improving the fortunes of a number of bird species, more are being forced onto the list of those that need attention, both globally and in the UK. If we want to have a
  • Species Recovery - ten success stories

    ARKive is a not-for-profit initiative of the charity Wildscreen.   With the help of the world’s best wildlife filmmakers and photographers, conservationists and scientists, ARKive is creating an awe-inspiring record of life on Earth.  Freely accessible to everyone and preserved for the benefit of future generations, it is an invaluable resource for conservation, education and public awareness.

    As a celebration of its ten-year birthday, ARKive is currently showcasing ten species that are on the road to recovery - extinction was imminent, but through the efforts of conservationists. public and private organisations, and the public, these species now have a future.  The project is well worth a visit to find out more (click here), and follow the links to more species on each page.  Make sure to keep an eye out for the SAVE Project on the Oriental white-backed vulture page, and quotes from our very own Chris Bowden.

    From the ARKive site:

    "From saving the world’s most threatened species of sea turtle to bringing unusual amphibians back from the brink of extinction, no conservation challenge is a lost cause if knowledge, dedication and strong partnerships are put into play. This is the important message we are championing to celebrate our tenth anniversary.

    To mark a decade of highlighting conservation issues, we have worked closely with the IUCN Species Survival Commission Specialist Groups to select and feature ten very different species, one for each year of ARKive’s existence, to be ambassadors for conservation.

    All of the chosen species have the unfortunate distinction of being at risk of extinction should their plight be ignored. However, a further factor linking these ten species is that each one has been put on the road to recovery thanks to targeted conservation efforts led by dedicated scientific experts, and all are expected to improve in status over the next ten years should this extremely important work continue.

    Join us on our journey of discovery, as we uncover the true importance of conservation and celebrate its successes."

  • Northern bald ibis – Abrupt end to 2013 Turkish tagging release trial?

     [Chris Bowden brings us sad news from the Middle East]

    The trial release of six ibis from the semi-wild colony at Birecik, three of which were satellite tagged, has ended abruptly and unfortunately we don't have a clear idea as to what has happened.

    The birds were released in late July and, after an initial spell staying nearby in Turkey, five of the six (including all three tagged birds) suddenly moved off south in August and most intriguingly ended up stopping for almost three weeks very close to the last Syrian colony near Palmyra... where only one adult of the truly wild population had spent the spring this year.  The birds then started moving again in early September, but instead of heading further south, they moved west towards Homs and just a few days later all three tagged birds stopped transmitting within a few hours of each other - we don't have very clear information on the exact last locations, and its obviously not an area that could be searched owing to the current security situation.

    So we are left speculating as to what might have happened. We did have a similar experience with birds released in 2008 which suddenly stopped transmitting in Jordan, and Sharif Al Jbour from the BirdLife Middle East Office managed to drop everything and immediately get to the site and locate the corpses of three birds under an electricity pylon. One of the tags had been subjected to very high voltage which led us to conclude that electrocution was probably the cause of death. It could well be something quite different this time of course - the tagged birds that stopped transmitting in northern Saudi Arabia in 2009 and 2010 seem most likely to have been hunted... but we may never know for sure.

    Could this year's ibis have suffered a similar fate?  (Sharif al Jbour)

  • A post from nature's front line in Cyprus

    I was given a stark reminder of the risks and raw adrenaline that comes one with trying to protect and save birds in the face of aggression and intimidation when I received the following email from Cyprus written by Roger Little who is voluntarily on the front line of one of the most intractable conservation battles in Europe.

    BirdLife Cyprus Intimidation

    The trapping situation in Cyprus is worsening. Figures compiled by BirdLife Cyprus show that literally hundreds of thousands of birds are being caught every year in mist nets and on limesticks. In excess of 150 different bird species are caught, 78 of which are listed as threatened. The trappers can only sell approximately 20 of these species, illegally, to restaurants who in turn sell them illegally as a dish called Ambelopoulia to customers prepared to break the law. The rest are killed and dumped. There’s very good money to be made and trappers have become increasingly organised, ruthless and aggressive in recent years – even the Cyprus mafia are involved in large-scale trapping operations.

    I am one of a long list of RSPB volunteers who have in recent years been helping BirdLife Cyprus monitor this barbaric and indiscriminate killing of some of Europe’s best loved birds. I am right-hand man in a two-man team whose job is to systematically record all evidence of trapping and to call in the enforcement officers whenever we find glue sticks or nets set for the kill.

    I won’t repeat in detail the horrific sights I have seen this autumn in Cyprus, of birds struggling to survive entangled in mist nets or stuck by wings and feet on limesticks – blackcaps, shrikes, bee-eaters...the list goes on. Their fate is either a slow inhumane death or, when the trapper returns, a swifter but no less savage end to lives that have been spent battling against the forces of nature.

    Early October, and we were in one of the main trapping areas, checking an area for illegal trapping. We know we are not far from a well-known mist netting site belonging to one of the ‘big’ trappers, so we are being extra cautious this morning. A couple of small olive groves by the side of a main road. We park in a small pull off area and, as always, turn the car to face the direction of our quick, if necessary, exit. After a brief walk we discover, in broad daylight, at midday, mist nets set for trapping. We hear someone cough close by, so we return to the car. Safety first is the necessary approach.

    Our car’s exit and thus our exit have been blocked by a pick-up truck. Two angry men in camouflage dress approach us. I do not understand Greek. However their manner and tone of voice were plainly meant to intimidate, threaten and frighten. A few days previously five other anti-trapping volunteers in Cyprus had been beaten up by trappers.

    Within a matter of minutes there are five vehicles and seven men – each one seemingly bigger and more intimidating than the last – on the scene. The situation appears out of control and there is no obvious way out for the two of us. The gang fire questions and threats at us:

    What are you doing here?”

    "You are one of those activists aren’t’ you?”

    “Don’t you dare to come here again, did you hear me!”

    “If you come here again you will be buried on the spot!

    Fortunately my BirdLife Cyprus colleague, a local Cypriot, remains calm. He talks us out of a dangerous situation helped by a pre-arranged cover story. The five trucks blocking our way are moved and we were allowed to drive off. I expected to be beaten up. I wasn’t; and I’d do it again; putting yourself in the ‘line of fire’ for the sake of birds in Cyprus is no laughing matter, but can we just stand by?

    After receiving this, I had an email from Martin Hellicar of BirdLife Cyprus saying that he had just learnt of a successful joint Game Fund – Cyprus Police raid against the big trapping operation the thugs that were threatening Roger and his colleague were part of.

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